World renowned as the capital of fashion, Milan is this and many more. Thanks to its ancient history and modern glory as the richest city in Italy, there is plenty to admire walking around its elegant streets. If you are planning a trip to this city and want to make the most out of it, have a look at our checklist of the 20 things to do in Milan to fulfill your 5 senses.
1) Go to roof of the Duomo to admire the city
Before going to the top, take a look at the majestic interior of the fifth largest Catholic cathedral in the world: its marble-encrusted facade and fabulous spires are simply unique. When you are ready you can either climb the 257 steps or take the elevator to the roof. Here, you can admire the fast-changing landscape of the most contemporary city in Italy, with its rising skyscrapers and brand new green districts. At a closer sight, you can check some of the 3600 statues and 135 spires decorating the cathedral’s roof.
Free Download: Useful Tourist Info: Italy Travel Guide Learn all about Italy and use these tips & tricks when visiting Italy.
2) Gaze in amazement at the Last Supper in Santa Maria delle Grazie
You will be amazed not only by what is considered the most enigmatic fresco in history but also by the fact that you finally succeeded in entering to the refectory of the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie! Buying a ticket to the Last Supper, in fact, is as hard as meeting the Pope in person – booking in advance is obligatory to visit the Last Supper and only small groups of people are allowed to enter the refectory each allotted time. And remember, once there, you have only 15 minutes to take part in the most famous supper in history.
3) Contemplate the sublime paintings in the Pinacoteca di Brera
Once owned by Napoleon, this prestigious collection contains some of the most famous masterpieces by Caravaggio, Raffaello, Mantegna, Rembrandt, and Tintoretto. In addition, the collection was recently expanded with two large anthologies of Modern Art. Once you have quenched your thirst for art, you cannot miss taking a stroll in the Brera neighborhood – probably one of the most exclusive areas of Milan, with its picturesque small streets lined with cute shops and corner restaurants.
4) Look ahead at the futuristic atmosphere of Zona Garibaldi
One of the newest and most exciting things to do in Milan is to immerse yourself in “CityLife,” a residential and business district under construction in Zona Garibaldi. The cornerstone of the project is the construction of 3 futuristic skyscrapers that will give a new look to the skyline of the city. The 3 skyscrapers are named after the architects that have designed them, but they all already have nicknames based on their shape: the Isozaki Tower is called Il Dritto (the straight one), the Hadid Tower is called Lo Storto (the twisted one), and the Libeskind Tower is called Il Curvo (the curved one). This new exciting project is intended to make Milan the first city in the world in which tradition and modernity are combined in a perfect mix.
5) Delight your ears at Teatro alla Scala
Antonio Salieri’s “Europa Riconosciuta” inaugurated the theater in 1778 – later on, famous composers such as Giuseppe Verdi, Giacomo Puccini, and Arturo Toscanini amused the public with their gorgeous music. Year after year, visitors come to Teatro alla Scala to experience not only the superb performances on stage, but also the exquisite atmosphere of Milan’s musical jewel. Tickets to the opera season can be very hard to come by – should you fail in grabbing one you could pay a visit to La Scala’s Museum to admire the stylish red velvet and the golden balconies of the theater.
6) Give your ears something new with Serate Musicali
Serate Musicali brings to Milan the shiniest stars of the international scene as well as some new discoveries that are making their way to the spotlight. This is a not-to-be-missed appointment for classical music lovers that are willing to listen to a great variety of music — from chamber music to symphonies — with great musical quality. Serate Musicali, in fact, is hosted at “Sala Verdi,” renowned throughout Europe for the quality of its acoustics. Names such as Alexander Lonquich, Elisso Virsaladze and Uto Ughi are just the tip of the iceberg for the upcoming season!
7) Combine classical and unusual music at Auditorium di Milano
Despite the fact that it was only inaugurated in 1999, Auditorium di Milano is now an important cultural pillar of the city. It is the home of the Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi, a critically acclaimed symphonic Italian ensemble What makes this experience different from other musical events is the incredible versatility of the Orchestra Sinfonica. Every year, in fact, this amazing theater offers different and new programs that are created combining classical music with more unusual offerings.
8) Experience the inexplicable acoustic prodigy of Loggia dei Mercanti
Situated next to Piazza Duomo, Piazza dei Mercanti and its Loggia has been the core of financial life of the richest city in Italy for many years. Merchants (mercanti) used to stand under the “Loggia” to sell their goods to Milanese citizens while giving a quick look at the Duomo and its observers. Today no goods are sold here anymore but, instead, there is an intriguing game you can play with your travel buddy. Stand both facing the wall in front of the columns on the two opposite site corners of the Loggia and you will be able to whisper whatever you want to your buddy without nobody hearing it!
9) Eat while feeding the planet at 2015 Expo Milan
“Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life” is the theme of Milan Universal Exposition (1 May-31 Oct, 2015). Here you can experience an exquisite trip around world’s food specialties as well as raise your awareness on food education and responsible use of natural resources. Italian food, of course, will be the star of the event with 20 different Italian regional kitchens in an area of 8000 square meters – a one-shot opportunity to taste the incredible variety of Italian cuisine all together. This is definitely one of the tastiest things to do in Milan!
10) Satisfy your hunger with style during Happy Hour
Happy Hour, best known as “Aperitivo“, is the Italian but truly milanese practice of enjoying a drink while tasting some freshly-made appetizers with friends and colleagues after work. Every day, usually between 7 and 9 p.m., every cafe and lounge bar in Milan offers a mouth-watering self-service selection of tastes and appetizers to combine with the drink you have chosen. The drinks may be a bit more expensive than usual, but the buffets are free – and for a traveler, it is an excellent excuse to take a rest after a day of wandering around.
11) Quench your thirst in the Colonne di San Lorenzo’s nightlife
With its sparkling clubs and stylish discos Milan’s nightlife is renowned for being the poshest in Italy. But before an adventurous night out, milanese young people are used to gather in a place that is the exact opposite in terms of fashion: the Colonne di San Lorenzo. Situated not so far from Piazza Duomo, this long row of ancient columns is used as a place to stand or seat (someone seats even on the floor!) while having a drink and a nice chat with friends. A crowded suggestive square along the columns and a number of busy bars all around is the perfect start for your Italian night out!
12) Have your alternative dinner on a tram
Being an evocative symbol of the city, Milan’s original orange 1930s trams are still running in the main center to take Milaneses and tourists to the most famous monuments and places. Entering one of these tram will take you back to the postwar period – here you can take a seat on one of the original wooden seats while looking outside at the modern flair of the city. But the coolest thing to do in this orange time capsules is to book a special dinner to be served while the tram moves around the city. Here you can taste 3 different typical Milanese menus while sipping a wide selection of Italian wines.
13) “Smell the roses” at Parco Sempione
With so many things to do in Milan, you might feel a bit tired at some point, especially in a busy city like this. The biggest and easiest-to-reach park in Milan is Parco Sempione, located in the historic center of the city. This is a 386,000 m² free wireless network area, where you can rest your aching feet by laying on the grass or have a nice picnic lunch surrounded by a beautiful scenery. The park, in fact, has a wonderful panoramic view of two of the most famous monuments of Milan which also happen to be adjacent to it, Castello Sforzesco and the Arch of Peace.
14) Sniff the future at Bosco Verticale
Inaugurated in October 2014, Bosco Verticale (Vertical Forest) is a pair of residential towers in the Porta Nuova district that embrace a new way of living as well as regenerate the environment and urban biodiversity. With its more than 1000 trees, the two towers look like an authentic “vertical forest” that is perfectly integrated with the surrounding greenery. You might not want to buy an apartment in one of the two buildings, but paying a quick visit is worth it to realize that the future has a green smell!
15) Smell something different navigating the Navigli Waterways
After having fallen into disuse for a long time, the Navigli waterways are about to be re-opened to give the tourist an additional and more suggestive mode of transportation to get from the city centre to the Expo. Despite being a large network of canals, only the two main waterways (Naviglio Grande and Naviglio Pavese) are navigable today. Both of them depart from a nonconformist area of the city called Zona Navigli where the canals are lined with pavement cafes and vintage shops. Taking a boat on the Navigli allows you to try a smell that is unusual for an inland city like Milan, the surprising smell of water!
16) Experience the scent of money at Piazza Affari
A typical smell in the richest city in Italy is without any doubt the smell of money! The place where this tempting fragrance becomes more intense is Piazza Affari, which in Italian means, of course, Business Square. Hosting the Italian Stock Exchange, this square is an Italian icon of riches and success, where millions of Euros come and go from all over the world everyday. But the most surprising fact about this “Piazza” is the sculpture in the middle. No words are needed to explain, just look at the picture or go there to experience its amusing irreverence!
17) Feel the “Made in Italy” with some shopping
Probably the most unique experience among the twenty things to do in Milan! The world capital of fashion could be very tempting with its sparkling shop windows showing some hot-off-the-catwalk clothes by world famous Italian stylists. But we warn you, going to the Quadrilatero della Moda (Rectangle of Fashion) — the area of Milan in which you find all the best boutiques — could be quite dangerous at some point and unleash your desire to buy every single gleaming item! The best thing to do is to rely on a personal shopper, someone who has a deep knowledge of the city and is able to customize an itinerary for you.
18) Witness how expert hands create the magic at Atelier Sangalli
Atelier Sangalli is an hidden gem of the entire fashion world! Women of Milanese high society come here to be fitted in tailor-made confections and so can you, if you are willing to buy something off budget once in a while. But if you aren’t willing to make the investment and only wish to have a look at how this masterpieces are created, we suggest you to have a tour of this astonishing workshop. Here you will be introduced to a distinct method of handmade clothing production that has nothing in common with the today’s mass-produced fashion.
19) Spin on the Bull’s balls in Galleria Vittorio Emanuele
A trip to Milan could give an unexpected boost to your luck if you are ready to follow a peculiar Milanese tradition! On the floor in the middle of the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele there is a tile image of a prancing bull that has an unexpected hole right in its middle parts. The reason is an old and unusual belief that is still very popular nowadays: spinning three times with your heel on the bull’s ball will give you luck. Once your luck has been restored you can have a nice walk inside the Galleria, the oldest shopping mall in the world!
20) Grab something vintage at Fiera di Sinigaglia
The last of the 20 things to do in Milan is something slightly unusual for this elegant and lustful city, yet it is as fashionable as browsing shop windows in the Quadrilatero della Moda. Fiera di Sinigaglia is the oldest flea market in Milan, it is held next to Zona Navigli every Saturday from 8 a.m until 6 p.m. Here you can find artisan objects, old LPs, military uniforms, vintage clothing, objects d’art, ethnic items and much more. Once you are done with your shopping, we strongly recommend to taste a nice coffee while sitting in one of the picturesque cafes on the adjacent Zona Navigli.
Do you think there are any interesting things to do in Milan to add to our checklist or do you want to receive some extra information about the 20 above? Tell us in the comments and we will be pleased to help.